Mahou Josei Chimaka

Mahou Josei ChimakaCreator: KaiJu
Publisher: Chromatic Press
ISBN: 9781987988017
Released: December 2015
Original run: 2014-2015

Mahou Josei Chimaka, or Magical Woman Chimaka, is the second long-form comic by KaiJu, a creative team made up of Kate Rhodes and Jennifer Xu, that I’ve had the opportunity to read. The three-chapter comic was originally serialized online in Sparkler Monthly between 2014 and 2015 before being collected and released in both digital and print book editions by Chromatic Press later in 2015. I love everything that Chromatic Press is involved with, but I was especially looking forward to Mahou Josei Chimaka for a number of reasons. Most notably, I was greatly impressed by KaiJu’s previous comic The Ring of Saturn (which also released by Chromatic Press) and have been closely following the team’s work ever since. It also didn’t hurt that in large part Mahou Josei Chimaka is a loving homage to and parody of the magical girl genre. That and it also it ends up being a sweet romance between two women.

Fifteen years ago Shimmer Shimmer Skypatcher Chimaka faced her greatest nemesis and lost, failing to protect her city. While Chimaka was able to temporarily repel the threat, a large portion of the city was laid to waste and left a giant, lifeless crater. Now her enemy has returned, intending to finish the job, only Chimaka isn’t a magical girl anymore. Her life fell apart after that fateful, disastrous encounter and, although she’s back on her feet again, the magic is gone. Chimaka now spends her days working as a scientist at Squid Petroleum and nights drinking with her colleague Pippa with whom she has become very close. But with the return of her old enemy, along with the persistence of a certain government agency which uncovered her past, Chimaka needs to find a way to regain her powers. The ever cheerful Pippa is determined to do all that she can to help Chimaka, but the task that the two of them face is a difficult and daunting one—Chimaka must once more become Shimmer Shimmer Skypatcher if she wants to save the world.

Mahou Josei Chimaka, page 94Mahou Josei Chimaka is crafted to especially appeal to readers who are fans of the magical girl genre (or, in this particular case, the magical woman genre) and who are interested in a slightly different approach than is often seen. While it’s not absolutely necessary to be familiar with the common tropes and themes of the genre—Mahou Josei Chimaka is completely enjoyable as a story in its own right—readers who are will be in a better position to truly appreciate the entirety of the comic and its satire. The elements one would expect to see in a magical girl story are all present in Mahou Josei Chimaka, including but certainly not limited to animal companions, transformation sequences, dazzling accessories, and an emphasis on the power of love. But these have all been slightly skewed through the lens of Chimaka’s growth into cynical adulthood. And yet, while KaiJu’s interpretation of the magical girl genre is honest and mature, it doesn’t become dark and depressing.

Mahou Josei Chimaka is a delightfully funny and charming comic. Much of this comes from the contrasting but complimentary personalities of the comics’ two leading women and the sweetness of their blossoming relationship, but as a whole Mahou Josei Chimaka is very playful. KaiJu has a great sense of humor which comes through not only in the story and characters, but in the artwork as well. The artists alternate between using more realistic illustrations and those that are exaggerated for great comedic effect. The final chapter does perhaps rush the story’s climax a bit as the creators pull out all the stops for the epic final battle, but it’s a sort of intentional ridiculousness that’s highly entertaining. Although preventing the end of the world is serious business, Mahou Josei Chimaka mixes in silliness in the best sort of way. I enjoyed the comic on my first read but I find that I like it even more after reading it again; Mahou Josei Chimaka is a great deal of fun.

The Ring of Saturn

The Ring of SaturnCreator: KaiJu
Publisher: Chromatic Press
ISBN: 9780993861178
Released: May 2015
Original run: 2014

The Ring of Saturn was the first work that I read by KaiJu, a creative team made up of animator Jennifer Xu and cartoonist Kate Rhodes. A short three-part comic, The Ring of Saturn was first serialized online in Chromatic Press’ multimedia magazine Sparkler Monthly in 2014. The comic was collected as an ebook soon after and then in 2015 the print edition was released. I initially read The Ring of Saturn online as it was being serialized and was very impressed by the comic, so I was looking forward owning a physical copy. The gorgeous cover artwork was what first caught my attention, but the comic’s musical elements and historical drama immediately appealed to me as well. Although The Ring of Saturn stands completely on its own, the comic is actually a side story, a pilot of sorts, for a much larger work pitched by KaiJu to Chromatic Press. Based on the strength of The Ring of Saturn alone, I hope to one day see that project come to fruition. In the meantime, I’m very happy to have The Ring of Saturn.

Miriam Frayne is a student of Gustav Holst, the Director of Music at the prestigious St. Paul’s Girls’ School. Although a skilled pianist with a passion for music, she is confounded by the solo arrangement of Holst’s “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age.” She simply can’t seem to grasp its meaning or feeling, much preferring the rousing “Jupiter” movement of the suite which better suits her exuberant temperament and style of playing. It’s that energy that captures the attention of Rasim Rahal, a young astronomer who is intrigued by Holst’s work. At first Miriam is annoyed by Raz, but she soon finds herself warming up to him. Although he’s not the only one to express enjoyment of Miriam’s performance of “The Bringer of Old Age,” she herself continues to be dissatisfied and frustrated with it. And while Miriam continues to struggle with “Saturn” her country is locked in a struggle of its own—The Great War. Though seemingly far removed from her quiet life at school, the war is something that will affect everyone, including Miriam.

The Ring of Saturn, pages 69-70One of the things that I love about The Ring of Saturn is how the music forms a parallel to the narrative of the comic and to Miriam’s development as a character. The music serves as a metaphor for growth and change in a way that is remarkably effective and which never comes across as trite. “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” is a flashy piece with a sense of brilliance. As Miriam describes it, it steadily moves forward with purpose. “The Bringer of Jollity” captures Miriam as she is at the beginning of the comic—youthful and fervent, though perhaps a little naive when it comes to some of the harsher realities of life and of war. But by the end of The Ring of Saturn, Miriam is finally able to understand and even identify with “The Bringer of Old Age.” She has had to grow up, and with that maturity she is able to approach the music and her life more fully. She is no longer the person she once was, which can be seen in both how she acts and in how she plays. Miriam has become wiser with age and with experience.

Music, which is beautifully conveyed visually throughout The Ring of Saturn, is a critical component of the work. The Ring of Saturn also one of the few comics that I know of in which a composer, and a historical one at that, plays an important role. And it’s certainly the only one that I’m aware of that features Holst. While the details in The Ring of Saturn aren’t quite as intricate, KaiJu’s work in the comic reminds me of some of the manga by Kaoru Mori in both its artwork and in how history is incorporated into its setting and story. The Ring of Saturn is historical fiction and so some freedom has been taken with historical fact, but the feeling of era is there. I also enjoyed the comic’s witty and poetic dialogue. The Ring of Saturn is a short comic, well under a hundred pages, but it is also satisfyingly complete. Reading it again I love it just as much as I did the first time and have perhaps come to appreciate even more what KaiJu has accomplished with The Ring of Saturn.